Hey, guess what, folks? It turns out the leaders of the United States don’t even know exactly how many American and Allied military bases exist. Furthermore, the number of wars the so-called, unofficial but still real Euro-American Global Empire is engaged in does not match the official count. Because there are more violent military and intelligence operations occurring simultaneously than Empire wants to admit. When Special Forces engage in covert hostilities behind enemy lines of a state or quasi-state we are not technically at war with, or when the CIA fires drone missiles into countries that we’re also not technically at war with, isn’t that “war?”
There are two ways the great, borderless superpower of today behaves in a similar fashion to empires of old.
During the height of many large, polyglot empires from the Roman to the Mongol to the British, the imperial Center, i.e. the homeland realms, were often in a state of prolonged peace. Except, of course, for an occasional civil war for control of the state. The majority of the population enjoyed the illusion of a peaceful world of trade and commerce free of war. What they actually meant, however, were their cities and countryside were free from invasion.
The far-flung borders and colonies of these empires, however, were often in a state of chronic warfare. These conflicts included tribal wars, local ethnic rebellions, and frontier guerrilla wars. There were unique situations where off and on border wars raged between large empires without either committing fully to what would have been a Phyrric victory. Ancient History buffs may note one case in particular, the Roman-Parthian Wars. A Modern example would be the American-Soviet Cold War, although the Soviet Empire collapsed at the end of it.
Today, the dominant region of the Euro-American Global Empire is called “the United States Homeland.” “Homeland” is a post-9/11 term that recalls a time not all that long ago when the Nazis emphasized Germany as “the Fatherland.” The Soviet Communists did the same with Russia as “the Motherland.” The focus has shifted from American liberties and protecting Constitutional rights to enforcing Homeland Security with domestic surveillance and militarization. The militaristic and ultranationalist “feel” these terms evoke is quiet different from the peaceful, loving reverence many feel for “Mother Earth and Father Sky” for example.
The second similarity is the vast number of military garrisons empires establish to maintain control of far-flung regions, whether it is political control, to promote and protect certain religions and corporations, to defend against enemies, to hold territory, or to allow for safe commerce to flow. These imperial frontiers and colonies were dotted with numerous forts, castles, and other fortifications. The First and Second World Wars destroyed the concept of “forts.” Now they are called “bases.” Forts became something preteen boys built back in the bushes from which to lob rocks and sticks at one another.
No one seems to know exactly how many military bases the United States alone has. The numbers and locations keep changing, and that seems to be a convenient excuse. There are also numbers of intelligence bases, secret prisons or black jails, and centers for black ops. Some bases are large, sprawling complexes shared with many Allied nations. Others are in urban basements and nondescript buildings. Others are relatively tiny, small-unit forward operating outposts such as the U.S. Army’s Restrepo in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan (made famous by author Sebastian Junger whose book about his experiences in the Korengal campaign was turned into an award-winning film documentary in 2010).
Investigative reporter Nick Turse of Asia Times attempted to find out. First, the Department of Defense’s 2010 Base Structure Report states that of 2009 there were 662 military bases outside the U.S.A. in 38 nation-states. Then when the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense addressed the Senate, she claimed there were 507 permanent bases. But the Pentagon lists 4,999 total sights in American states and territories as well as in other countries. At the same time, the Base Structure Report does not include small bases, covert bases, forward operating bases, or floating mobile naval, naval air, and naval-air-marine bases. In fact one criteria is that bases have to be larger than 10 acres if overseas or have a Plant Replacement Value to repair and maintain the facilities greater than $10,000,000. In reality many bases are smaller.
To add to the confusion are what appears to be deliberate concealment of facts. There’s no mention of bases in Afghanistan when there are over 400 there. A little over 80 are listed in Iraq when there are over 500 more not listed. There are blacked-out sites in other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There are also bases run on our behalf by other nations and their own local national security and military-intelligence apparatus. There are covert bases operated by the CIA and possibly other secretive intelligence departments. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has bases in its Drug Wars. The DEA, for example, trains primarily at the Quantico Marine Base in the American state of Virginia, along with the FBI. My native state of Virginia, by the way, has at least 27 military and joint military-intelligence bases listed by a family business that helps military personnel find, sell, or rent homes. Some of the world’s largest bases are located in Virginia.
Many of these may not fit the criteria for size and PVR to be listed, which in turn makes them easier to hide. The power of Empire is brilliantly dispersed across the globe yet concentrated in small arenas difficult to track. The military-industrial-intelligence complex has a life of its own that outlives the temporary rotations of politicians and bureaucrats. The system itself develops its own inertia and demands for secrecy and consumption of blood and treasure that fortifies the frontiers while hollowing out the increasingly unstable homelands. The peace once felt in the homelands begins to crumble under environmental, economic, socio-political, and ethnic stress.
As far the number of wars the United States and its Allies are engaged in, many have their heads buried in the sand. Politicians and mass media pundits are either bemoaning or celebrating the U.S.A. is currently in Libya, its “3rd war,” after Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re forgetting a few things. Such as Somalia and Yemen. We’re still in the Global War on Terror, the ugly GWOT, against al-Qaida and its allies across Europe, North America, Asia including Indonesia and the Philippines, and North, East, and West Africa. As the term GWOT has fallen out of favor under the Obama Regime, many in the military now refer to it as “the Long War” while many Neo-Cons like the designation of “World War IV” (with the Cold War being WWIII).
Under this umbrella America is engaged is military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, the former Yugoslavia, and the Philippines. And now Libya. In addition there was or is possibly and likely covert action in Iran and Sudan. We’re still in a technically unresolved war of sorts with North Korea. Then there’s the Drug War, still quite violent and nasty, moving from Peru and Columbia into Mexico. It is now consuming Mexico with horrific violence while spreading not just north into the United States but also into Central America and Jamaica. I won’t begin to mention short-term interventions in various African countries or the on and off ones in Haiti.
This system of imperial overreach fosters the illusion of peace through security at home. These numerous wars, while certainly not on the scale of the World Wars, have a severely negative economic, environmental, and sociopolitical impact. Financial and material resources are extracted and expended in a one-way waste of destruction and corruption. They drain resources from everywhere and generate even more terrorists, criminal cartels, corruption, and war profiteering. Maintaining thousands, even hundreds of military and intelligence bases drain treasuries and stretch resources and distribution networks. The more an empire expands itself in order to defend itself, the more there is to defend and therefore the more it expands itself. Ultimately this hollows out the colonies and the rot spreads back to the home countries that implode within or explode outward.
The Euro-American Global Empire, however, is not the final goal of Empire. The interlinked web of international Central Bank cartels, Big Bank robber barons, the Corporatocracy, the National Security State, and their allies among the military-industrial-intelligence complex appear to have a longer vision. The rest of can’t discern but so much and have to be careful with speculation. The global elite seem to be moving with deliberation and patience. Based upon history and current events, they’re creating opportunities out of regional chaos and global crises to reconstruct humanity into some kind of neo-feudal, neo-fascist new world empire all dressed up pretty as a global democracy with elections and “free markets.” After one studies the roles of the global finance and imperialism down through history, it becomes apparent a more descriptive term is Empire of the Global Financial Elites. They merely manipulate nationalism and ideology to further their pursuit of wealth and power.
A such working together in a cohesion at once both messy and surprisingly efficient, the global elite seek to dominate the finances and marketplaces of the entire planet. The bulk of the people working for them are unawares and believe they’re just doing their jobs. These people, the soldiers and spies, the sailors and bank tellers, the pilots, bureaucrats, managers, technicians, whoever is working for them, and I have myself at one time, are merely cogs in an Orwellian machine. They’re the unwitting stormtroopers whose patriotism and commitment to serving the common good is manipulated to serve the interests of Big Business, Big Banks who loan to those corporations, the National Security States that project and protect these interests, and the superfinancial elite who own and/or control these systems with a certain discretion.
Based upon this, there may be an intention to actually break down the United States and the European Union after first using them to network then break up the rest of the global system. After all, the global elite don’t want any one nation-state remaining too powerful to challenge the implementation of a world dictatorship disguised as a democracy, nor to have their own empire associated with another. It’s difficult to tell for sure. Academics are too chicken to go there, and conspiracy theorists often muddy the waters with unsubstantiated claims.
What can the rest of us do? They global elite and their creeping empire are formidable enemies. And they aren’t the only ones. Criminal gangs, narcoterrorists, rogue states, armed racist militia, petty tyrants, corrupt governments, terrorist groups, religious fundamentalists, lone wolves with resources, they all add up. And we face impending systemic collapse on a global scale from the convergence of problems threatening to overwhelm us, problems that we can solve if and only if we can work together.
The best solution toward that end is building a constitutional Democratic Socialist World Government with transparent institutions and democratically-run markets and businesses. The best place to begin here is to vote in and support the Global Referendum for a Democratic World Parliament. Vote “Yes!” at https://voteworldparliament.org.
It is a pragmatic place to start. Another is get involved in your local and regional even national governments to “take it back” from both the global empire builders and the ultranationalists and isolationists. So we can turn from our planetary civilization away from world empire to world community and democracy to craft our Democratic World Government. Join fired up activist networks determined to make a difference at all levels of civilization, such as Four Years Go. So go join FYG at http://www.fouryearsgo.org/about/overview/.
Beyond that, it is vital we the people take control over the Money Power from private and quasi-public institutions such as the international Central Banks. We must establish public control of the Money Power. And such public control must be transparent and the Money Power held accountable and audited. A similar example is the civilian control of the Military Power in America and its Allies. This struggle may be our hardest battle, far more difficult than establishing a Democratic Socialist World Government. What difference does it make to have the legal institutions of freedom, justice, and unity in place if it becomes all an illusion if the Global Elite continues to dominate the world through whatever institutions exist with the sheer power it wields from mass, concentrated wealth and the ability to control politics and economies?
We the People of Earth must learn to establish not only our rightful governments but also our businesses. We can learn to be the Wise Stewards of our shared Commons. It begins with waking up to learn what’s really going on and what’s not going on as we’re often led to believe. Then we determine what steps do we take next as we learn to work together.
We cannot dismantle the bases of world empire until we first take over the global Money Power and transnational institutions of big banks and corporations. We cannot bring an end to wars and stirred-up old hatreds until we replace Capitalism with an economic, social, political, and financial system more equitable where individual liberties of human rights and concurrent social responsibilities are emphasized over property rights, corporate personhood, and the idea anyone can do whatever the hell they want to do without regards.
Websites & Sources to review:
Bilchik, Gloria Shur. “Military Mystery: How many bases does the US have, anyway?” Occasional Planet: Real Change, One Progressive Idea At A Time.
Department of Defense Base Structure Report (2010). <http://www.acq.osd.mil/ie/download/bsr/BSR2010Baseline.pdf>.
Four Years. Go. <http://www.fouryearsgo.org>.
Turse, Nick. “Empire of Bases 2.0” Asia Times Online. <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/MA12Df01.html>.
Virginia Military Base Homes at Military By Owner: <http://www.militarybyowner.com/military_bases/virginia.aspx>.
Vote World Parliament: <https://voteworldparliament.org>.
William Dudley Bass
7 April 2011
Revised 23 November 2011
NOTE: This was first published prior to revisions in At the Brink at http://atthebrinkwithwilliamdudleybass.blogspot.com/2011/04/empire-of-bases-for-wars-without-end.html then revised and republished here. Thank you.
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.